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@Pensburgh how good is Sundqvist? Im pretty excited hes still in camp, would he be an upgrade to pens bottom six over other options?— USS_slapshot (@USS_slapshot) October 3, 2014
Oskar Sundqvist might be the surprise of training camp- his first appearance with the Pittsburgh Penguins since being drafted in the 3rd round of 2012. Coach Mike Johnston is a fan too.
"He’s had a very good preseason," head coach Mike Johnston said. "Every game, no matter where I seem to play him, if he’s with very experienced players or he’s in more of a checking situation, he seems to have responded.
"He’s a very good prospect. I mentioned the other day, I really thought out of this camp, he’s a guy that took a big step. He’s got size, he’s good both ways, he’s responsible, so he’s going to be a very good player for this organization."
"We talked about it the other day, and he’s led to a lot of conversations between our coaching staff and management," Johnston said. "We’ll have some tough conversations over the next few days as to what we do now."
Sundqvist has forced his name to be apart of those conversations. He’s done the best he could in his audition at training camp and in preseason action. Now all he can do is wait and see where his next step will be.
"It’s been a good training camp for me. Everything has been good," Sundqvist said. "If I’m going back to Sweden or staying here for a couple of weeks, we’ll have to wait and see."
Where might he fit on the Pens? Well, he can thank the undisclosed injury to Evgeni Malkin and leg injury to Beau Bennett for opening up some more space. You can fuss around with the exact placement if you want, but the Penguins lines probably look like the following as of right now for opening night:
Top 6 of: Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie
Bottom 6 of: Nick Spaling, Marcel Goc, Blake Comeau, ? , ?, Craig Adams,
A lot of fans would like to see Adams not dressed for game play, but at this point it's difficult to see how they would pull it off right now. Like it or not, Adams still probably factors in enough for PK work and mythical "leadership" to still get a sweater, at least in the beginning of the season.
So the final 2 question marks (and possibly an extra 13th forward) have to be filled by the remaining bubble players in camp of Sundqvist, Kasperi Kapanen, Andrew Ebbett, Bobby Farnham and Zach Sill.
The team seems to favor Sill for some reason (guess 0g, 0a and finishing 489 out of 490 forwards in Corsi last year isn’t enough to dissuade that) so he is probably going factor in on that 4th line to start the season.
There’s one more spot, and Sundqvist, as Johnston said, is in the running to claim it. Certainly if they weigh preseason production heavily he’ll be in a position to make the team, probably as 4th line center.
Sundqvist’s quote about "staying here for a couple of weeks" hints at playing for a while in the NHL – like say until Malkin is in game shape?- and then being sent back to Sweden for the season. As a 20 year old, the first year of his NHL entry level contract will be "burned" this year whether he plays 0 games or 82, there’s no motivation for the team there.
It’s more about finding the player the right fit for his personal development (where he’ll be a bigger part of the team in Sweden) versus a chance at making an impact in the NHL- and also providing something that the Pittsburgh Penguins could use- like a 4th line center at the beginning of the season.